I have a complex life, doing a number of widely different tasks in any given day, some of which are money-making and some of which are necessary maintenance. I won’t bore you with the details, but while engaged in maintenance duties, I have taken to either listening to audio podcasts or watching video podcasts while engaged in these tasks. One of these is a series from Open Yale on late Roman and early mediaeval history presented by Paul Freedman. I am on the lecture where he introduces Gregory of Tours to his class. He mentions two translations: one he had his students read where the editor and translator attempted to group and organize Gregory’s writing into a logical and linear fashion. The other follows the original order. That is, it lacks the sort of order many consider to be ‘orderly’. It is non-linear. That is, Gregory of Tours might be writing about a battle in one section, then in the very next paragraph digress to a discussion of a local saint, then in the next give a pocket travelogue of a city. This is very much like surfing the net. I am wondering if this can be introduced – well, it can! I will say rather, should it be introduced into online teaching.
I have attempted this in a limited form in my World Religions course. There I have the usual weeks corresponding to a typical term at my university: twelve. But I also constructed with a brilliant Instructional Designer (alas now gone from the university) a chart using the stars in the night sky to allow students to surf the course. That is, there is a star for Bahai, for Christianity, for Islam and so on which they can click and are whisked away to that section. I also organized these ‘stars’ in cultural groups. Thus, Christianity, Islam and Judaism are located near to each other, as also Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism are close to one another, and that group is near to Shinto and so on.
I have virtually no feedback on this – I might include a quick poll next time around (this coming Summer, if the powers-that-be smile on my employment prospects). The impression I get is oddly conservative – a few ‘sotto voce” comments that want linearity.
Hmmm, is my only scholarly comment at this point.